Tag Archives: reading

How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr

14 Jun

Coming October 18, 2011 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Is it possible to give a book six stars?

This book…this book, you guys. I don’t really know where to begin about it. I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately, among other plot-driven novels, and novels with paranormal elements to them. It was refreshing to read a novel that was straight-up contemporary. But, by “refreshing,” I do not mean refreshing like a trip to the spa, or a day at the beach, or something else lighthearted and fun.

By “refreshing,” I mean this book made me feel, moved me to compassion and understanding in ways I haven’t felt in a long time (if ever, possibly). Sara Zarr has this utterly incredible talent for writing about the world in ways that are just so real, ways that shine light on life—even the most common, mundane things—in a way you’ve never noticed before.

My favorite books are always the ones that tend to rock my world in some way. The Hunger Games trilogy did that—after Mockingjay, sad as it was, I felt hope. Across the Universe helped me appreciate sunlight, Earth, stars, fresh air, freedom. The Harry Potter books, due to—how do you sum THAT up? Their magical epicness, I guess—were the books that pushed me over the edge toward “I want to write my own novel,” something that has changed my day-to-day life in a very real way. Divergent was an adrenaline rush that made me think about human nature, about the impossibility of perfectionism, the prevalence of flaws in humanity, and the importance of bravery.

How to Save a Life reminded me to assume the best in everyone, and hammered home the notion that there are a lot of broken people in the world who would give anything for a hug, or someone who will listen to them, someone who won’t break their word. Also, it strengthened my appreciation for my amazing parents, wonderful husband, the baby I’ll give birth to in September, and all the little things I tend to take for granted.

Here’s a link to the Goodreads page, where you can read the blurb for this book and put it on your to-read lists.

Where the Magic Happens

23 Dec

As promised—(whee, I found my camera!)—here’s a picture of the writing room at our new apartment!  That desk was my grandfather’s, and it’s where I do most of my writing.  Well, when I’m not at Starbucks, anyway.  Oh, and lest you worry that my bookshelf isn’t well-stocked, just remember we have several more bookshelves.  This one’s just for books on writing and pretty hardcover new-releases.

It’s true!  We have two desks in the writing room!  This is the less-used one, because it’s small and antique and has a large crack running from end to end.  However, it’s the PERFECT size for laying out note cards while attempting to rearrange and rework troublesome sections of the novel.

This is pretty similar to the first picture, obviously, except it shows you my fun dandelion painting (which was a MAJOR score at Urban Outfitters—it had no price tag and a tiny smudge on it, and they let me buy it for a mere $5) and my guitar.  That’s, you know, for when I get stuck or tired or frustrated and just need a relaxing little break.  Lately, my go-to songs for this type of break include the song Gwyneth Paltrow sang on Glee (“Forget You,” the clean version of a song by Cee Lo), “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” (because Christmas is about much more than presents and decorations and ninjabread, and singing about it helps me remember that), and “Hey, Jude” (by the Beatles, but I hope you knew that already).

You can’t tell from these pictures, but the windows look out into trees and hills.  It’s a peaceful room for writing and reading (there’s a big reading chair on the opposite end of the room, but the pictures I took of it looked kind of lame, so I spared you all).

So, speaking of writing and reading, I have a LOT to do.

But…um…it’s Christmas Eve Eve today, and that only happens once a year.  Plus, I will be running full-speed ahead starting next week.  There’s a time for goals, and a time for rest.

Today, I shall rest.

Hope everyone’s having a lovely week—remember to rest amid the busybusybusy!

Merry Christmas Eve Eve to you all! ❤

 

Reading, Writing, and Other Awesomeness

8 Dec

Whew!  What a week!

So, Fresh Start December?  Yeah, it’s rocking so far.  Reading, writing, chatting with delightful friends on Twitter and gmail chat—you name it, it’s happening.

And I love it.  It feels good.  Fresh, I might even say.

The writing room is just as fantastic as you might imagine it to be.  It’s got a huge, clean, antique wooden desk, a new comfy desk chair, another desk (which, I discovered yesterday, is PERFECT for scene card shuffling), windows and natural light for inspiration, and a big gray chair that’s perfect for reading.¹

Anyway.

I’m overjoyed to announce that this writing room—get this—actually leads to a Very Productive Kayla.  During the first week of Fresh Start December, I slaved over a new beginning to this Very Important Novel.  Lo and behold, I (FINALLY) actually came up with one.  This beginning has been a thorn in my side for a little while, and it’s nice to have figured out (what I think is) a viable solution to the issues it had.  I still have some work to do on it, for sure, but am super encouraged by the progress I’ve made on it.

Okay, y’all.  Time to get productive up in here.

¹Pictures are forthcoming, *promise*—as soon as I find my camera.  Alas, it is still buried in some box.  (The ONE box I didn’t color code or label, it seems.)

Big Bowl of Crazy

4 Nov

Why, hello, November!  You are bright and shiny (read: dark and rainy and cold and AWESOME), and I’m so glad you’re finally here—just one question.

When did you arrive, and how did I miss you?

(Oops.  Two questions.  My bad.)

Somehow, the number at the bottom of my screen tells me it is already the fourth.  Wha?!  This would not usually be a daunting number, except that it’s November.  Not that I’m doing NaNo, but still.  My November is turning into one big fat bowl of crazy.  I need every day I can get.

So…isn’t a non-NaNoWriMo November supposed to be calm, lovely, smooth, and entirely stress-free? (HA.)  Turns out, that only happens when you treat November as merely November.  If you replace NaNoWriMo with your own combination of NaNoBlahBlahBlah, all sorts of crazy is possible.

For example, here are all the NaNos I’m n̶a̶ï̶v̶e̶l̶y̶  bravely taking on this month:

NaNoWriMo

NOT the pull-out-your-hair, scribble-till-your-arm-falls-off 50K version.  More like the 500 words per day version that I invented merely to get WIP #2’s first draft rolling.  It’s nice to have a no-pressure outlet purely dedicated to creating something fresh.  So far, I’m reaching this goal about every other day.

NaNoRevMo

The lovely Beth Revis invented this one, and the Rev is for revision.  (Note that Beth has a distinct advantage, since the entire revision process is practically named for her.  If only it was called Olsonision…or Olsonion? Alas.  It isn’t.)  This is the Big Project.  The still-needs-work-but-it’s-kind-of-almost-there project.  It’s going well so far.  I’ve figured out a process that works for this draft (the fourth)(funny how everysinglepart of this process requires a new system, no matter how well your old ones work) and am excited and encouraged about the upcoming changes.  Some are significant, some are minor.  All are needed.

NaNoReaMo

This is what Natalie Whipple is doing this month: a ton of reading.  She plans to burn through her tall stack of to-be-reads.  My stack of want-to-reads is ever growing, but for November, I’ll be happy if I get through one—two at most (James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, Andrea Cremer’s Nightshade).

KaNoGyMo

This is fun to say (imagine Sun’s harsh Korean father on LOST saying this like it’s an order to one of his subservient minions), and I made it up two seconds ago.  It stands for Kayla’s November Gym Month.  Yep: self-explanatory.  My sitting to moving ratio isn’t pretty at the moment, and I am dedicated to getting back into good habits.  Even if that only looks like a 30-minute walk on the treadmill—I’m mostly just aiming for consistent effort right now.

NaHoCleMo

Linda came up with this one last year: National House Cleaning Month.  Though I sort of need to participate, I hadn’t planned on it.  I mean, look at my November plans, y’all!  They’re…daunting.  Possible, but daunting.  To add cleaning to the mix seemed useful, but not ultimately important enough to shove my other goals aside.  Until now…

KaNoMoMo

No, I’m not talking about peaches. (MoMo = もも = peach in Japanese, FYI.)  Nope—it’s Kayla’s November Moving Month.  We’ve had some life transition goals in the works for a while (meaning we’ve been dreaming/praying about them and wondering how/when to actually try to act on them).  Well, turns out November is THE month!  Things have fallen into place quickly and perfectly, and we’ll be making a major move before the first of December.

As you might imagine, this last thing could flatten the rest of November to the ground.  Stack of books to read?  Flattened.  Shiny new WIP?  Pancake.  Revisions?  Roadkill.  If that happens, whatever.  Life happens.  And this transition?  Certainly counts as life.  December will be there, if all else fails.

However—I’m going to try to keep the impending transition from steamrolling over my goals.  Forward progress, discipline, and a calm spirit: those are my only REAL goals for November.  If I can accomplish those, I’ll be happy.

So?  Four days in—how are you guys doing with your various sets of lofty goals?  Updates, please!

Rain

23 Oct

Today is my favorite kind of day:

Latte + stormy weather + time + ideas to write + novels to read = AWESOME.

This has been a total I-want-to-do-everything-RIGHT-NOW sort of week, so it’s nice to have a day open where I can get some stuff done.  Still, though, merely having time doesn’t mean the decision of what to work on will be an easy one.

On one hand, I could buckle down with this fourth draft.  The mulling-things-over phase is coming to an end, and I’m on the brink of actually making changes.

On the other hand, I’m writing a first draft of something completely different.  I have a ton of ideas with where to take it, and today might be the perfect day to lay down a couple of chapters.  Rain tends to make me feel particularly inspired, which would work well for some shiny new words.

On my third hand, there’s that lovely stack of novels on my bookshelf…beautiful, beautiful novels…taunting me…and it is raining, and I am in comfy pants…what better way to enjoy the rain than listening to it while I read?

*Sigh.*

Guess I’ll just have to do everything.